Construction Literary Magazine

Fall 2019

Transgression; Something About Stillness

Transgression; Something About Stillness
Photograph via Flickr by fusion-of-horizons

Instead of opening up like lilies
at the touch of warm water,

in her body, everything riveted,
her ribs blunt like the heads of nails

and I knew, everything hurt from motion
and the air crippling around her lungs,

but I watched them—my father and mother,
scaffolding her body

erecting this sacred cathedral
with gentle touch, from bottom up.

In the bath tub, the body buoyed
aided by kapok’s bark, fibers twined

to help her breathe. I should have known better
than to stay put, watch her newborn cheeks

blush when my father lifted her into his arms,
the limp limbs wreathed around his neck

like animal skins,
her body pushed into the narrow river

knowing the water it can take but cannot keep.
Watching the three of them, I knew

I wanted to disappear somehow
in that intent crosshairs between bodies,

I wanted to save myself the pain
of watching my mother and my father

toiling over, nursing the body
into life among us. But the body

only knows to spill towards waste.

Something About Stillness

For days, my grandmother’s body wanes.
It begins to deliberate the aftermath of touch,

the it & it, clearing up everything,
like the throat of a woman leaving her home.

Nurses keep asking about what body parts
she can still move, the right arm or the left,

the right wrist, the hips, the knees
throbbing under the pressure of their push,

their educated thoughts moving
down her body and then up, like in a tight search,

while she does not flinch. At night,
my mother leaning over the rasp

of my grandmother’s sleep,
from this place of memory through

the far cycles of every hour.
My mother is collecting her mother’s words,

trudging & prodding, while the room
stays always darker & darker.

Last summer, the pear tree grew fierce
under the stone weight of fruit,

My grandmother bowed to the ground
and reveled in each discovery, again & again,

and this was the season before she ran
out of things to say, white-muzzled like a ghost,

the blackness just beginning to win. My mother
and she never spoke about the truths that hurt,

but I could see the pain strung, crisply, between their
two new homes cupping the edge of this silence.

In the hospital bed, her buoyant body
is charted by tubes, wrecked in the metal frame,

I am told, but when I see her
from this other continent, I squint,

her image sometimes frozen on my cellphone
screen, noisy cackles peppering silence,

she looks like a grown child, tethered
to the unexpected.